Half the members of the ad hoc Countywide Solid Waste Study Committee apparently believe that 43,000 Carroll County households should be paying a special "tax" of $1.4 million to subsidize the county's small trash haulers. That is the only conclusion one can draw from the committee's decision not to recommend changes in Carroll's trash collection system.
That extra cost -- which can amount to as much as $96 a year for each household using a private hauler -- is the difference between the current collection system and the cost of the county contracting with private haulers. According to the study's own data, people who live in the six towns that contracted with a private hauler last year pay an average of $7 a month for trash collection. Other county residents who use private haulers pay between $9 and $15 each month.
There is no reasonable justification for this inequity. While proponents of the current system throw around smoke-screen phrases such as "free market" and "free enterprise system," it is clear that the market is not operating effectively when it comes to Carroll's trash collection. County residents who have to contract with private haulers are not getting competitive prices.
The large and small haulers, who can take advantage of the extremely fragmented market, are the real beneficiaries of the current system because the individual family does not have the leverage a large group, such as a town or section of the county, would have.
The committee's analysis clearly shows that dividing the county in sections and then having haulers bid on these routes would produce much lower costs for Carroll's residents now using private haulers.
Unfortunately, the committee, whose membership included three trash haulers who like the status quo, chose to ignore these findings.
It is not contradictory to believe in the free market and allow the county to contract on behalf of its citizens. While protecting business is a laudable goal of government, maintaining inefficient and non-competitive businesses isn't the proper role of county government. Enabling residents to get their trash collected at the lowest possible cost is. Carroll's residents have better uses for their money than subsidizing trash haulers.